Presidential Pets website

Claire McLean of the Presidential Pets Museum wrote to me a couple of days ago mentioning that she’s looking for someone to take over her Presidential Pets website. She’d like to retire from it but not simply let it whither. It’s a great site but not one that I’d want to take over myself.

Ford Museum roadtrip

I managed to drive up to Grand Rapids, Michigan yesterday to visit the Ford Presidential Museum. I’m still processing the photos, including some I shot in 3D (you won’t need glasses).

UPDATE: Pete’s floor plans look great and are a terrific addition to the White House in Miniature exhibit; they provide some context that is a little lacking. Find the photo gallery here.

Pete goes to a presidential museum

I’m very pleased to announce that Peter Sharkey is:

…very excited and honored to announce that my work will be on display from February 9th to May 24th, 2009 at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum.

Check the pics and details one Wingnut’s Workings! Weather permitting, I will make a hasty trip up there on Friday. Pete, I’m mortified that I haven’t been checking Wingnut’s Workings every day! (In my defense, I’ve been busy shortening Hamlet).

Speaking of which, check out the recreation of the Cabinet Room rug!

Zweifel White House opens in Ford Library

The Zweifel White House in Miniature exhibit just opened at the Gerald Ford Library and Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

January 20 through May 24, 2009
GRAND RAPIDS — The White House in Miniature exhibit will be back at the Gerald R. Ford Museum.  Americans will now have the chance to get an insiders tour of “The Presidents’ House” without the hassles of traveling to the nation’s capital. That is why John and Jan Zweifel have labored since 1962 to create The White House in Miniature, a breathtaking scale model of the White House that is 60 feet long and 20 feet wide. The replica took more than 35 years to research, design and construct.

Among the features are tiny, working televisions, hand-carved chairs and tables, crystal chandeliers, portraits and miniature carpets that reproduce the originals stitch by stitch- each nuance of the White House is painstakingly reproduced to capture the elegance of one of the world’s most recognized residences.

If it took me 35 years to do something, I wouldn’t be bragging about it. Then again, working miniature televisions? Whoa.

I live 2.5 hours away from this, so if the weather is good in the next couple of weeks, I’ll probably find some time to visit.

Road trip: Reagan Library

I’m currently working in far-flung Rancho Cordova, California, near Sacramento, which Google places 6 hours away from the Reagan Library in Simi Valley and 6-and-a-half from the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda.

I think I’ll plan to stay over one weekend and visit those locations as well as San Francisco. Does anyone who has visited those libraries have any travel tips? Traveling on business, I have the luxury of staying overnight in that area, giving me a jump on the next day.

DC day 3: monumental error

Today I got up late and failed to get to the Washington Monument in time to get a ticket; they were all out by 10:30. So I went to the Natural History Museum, which was my plan anyway while I waited for my time to go the WM. After an exhausting couple of hours there seeing my fill of trilobites and buying the Hope Diamond for my mother, I walked over to the White House and shot it in full sun.

By this time, my back was killing me because, over the past twelve years as a technology consultant, my back muscles have been replaced with Hostess cream filling (I can explain the process and cost benefit with a PowerPoint presentation and Excel spreadsheet).

Nevertheless, I stopped in and toured at the Latrobe-designed Stephen Decatur House (great call, John). It’s in the process of being restored to its early-19th-century origins; thankfully, the first thing they restored was Latrobe’s kick-ass air-conditioning; you would have thought it was a meat locker. It’s an unusual house in that the kitchen is up front, as in a modern house, and the entertaining rooms are upstairs. It has the same in-frame shutters that the White House once had. And, authentic to its period, the front lamps are lit by gas and no photography is allowed inside—altho woodcuts and scrimshaw are presumably okay.

Then I cabbed it over to the Spy Museum, which was way better and more popular than I had imagined. It’s built into a storefront and doesn’t look like much from the outside but is designed very compactly, so there is a lot to see (but no photography!). The tight space adds to the atmosphere of espionage (as does the rampant, surreptitious camera-phone use), and the exhibits are very well done. Of course, at $16 a head and patrons streaming in and out for the full extended-hour day, they can afford to make it really cool. By the way, if anybody asks, my name is Billy Henderson; I’m a 14-year-old American student here in London on vacation for 9 days, and I have always had a mustache and a limp.

Oh, and Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum just opened with—I kid you not—lines around the block. I shot it after it had closed and the lines were only half-way around the block. It’s a pretty cool exterior design, with all the glass, altho I think they missed an opportunity to do a Nighthawks/Boulevard of Broken Dreams take with JFK, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, and James Dean.

Washington DC

Today I toured the Capitol and the Air & Space Museum and took pictures of the LOC and Supreme Court buildings. I’ll upload all my trip photos to a gallery and post a link when I get a chance.

The Capitol was interesting; it was a weird combination of palace and rabbit warren. I took several pictures, but the best is the one everyone takes: the Apotheosis of Washington in the ceiling of the Rotunda. Man, I gotta get a rotunda.

Then I visited the White House Visitor Center, which was a real disappointment. I knew there wasn’t much there, but really… I was shocked to find that it was barely more than a rather poor gift shop (altho it’s in a beautiful space in the side of the Commerce building). There were a few pieces of White House furniture, a few pieces of old plaster moldings, one nice 1801 model of the WH, and lots of big photographs. In the corner, they had a couple of TVs playing one of the WH documentaries. Not bad, mind you; just disappointing.

It’s unseasonably hot and humid this weekend and things are a little more spread out than I thought, so getting around is tiring. I haven’t seen too many of the trolleys or tourmobiles, so I didn’t get a pass for those. I’ve taken a few taxis, which are plentiful.

I’m too dumb to have brought a backpack to carry stuff, so I haven’t bought much. What else? Umm, sodas are cheap on the street. It’s a good-looking city, which frankly surprised me. There are a lot of German tourists. Cops are everywhere, and they seem to be attached to different departments. They all have their own metal barricades that say “Property of the Supreme Court Police” or whatever. Apparently, they’re afraid that other cops are going to steal their barricades.

UPDATE: Went out after dark again and snapped the WH (tripods not allowed on the WH side of the PA Ave, by the way), the inside of the Jefferson Memorial, FDR Memorial, and Vietnam memorial. Somehow I missed the Korean Memorial in the dark, but I did see the signpost from MASH in the American History temporary exhibit in the Air & Space Museum, so that’s something.

I can’t believe how dark it is around the memorials. Half the street lamps are out and the others are so dim you have to use the light from your cellphone to find them. Even at nearly midnight there was a crowd at the Vietnam Memorial; it was so dark that it took several tries before I got a nice pic, and the crowd had emptied out.

White House Museum library

One thing that struck me about the Lincoln Museum is the library attached to it. One section was a small private collection of books about all the presidents (“Someone wrote a book about Millard Fillmore?” Yep.) It has convinced me that any real White House Museum also needs a research library—broader, but not as deep as any of the existing presidential libraries.

Ooh, I just thought of something. The library could be built as a replica of the Taft-Hoover West Wing, with a replica of the original Oval Office as the centerpiece.

Presidential Pet Museum news

Got this from the Presidential Pet Museum

As one of the first people who visited our website or supported the Presidential Pet Museum and Foundation, we want you to know that the Museum has relocated to 51 Maryland Avenue in Annapolis, Md. We would like to invite you to our official opening on Feb.17,18 & Presidents Day, from 11:00 to 6:00. We expect to unveil the Barney Bronze and would like you to join us. If not, we hope you will renew your friendship and support to our small museum and foundation and help up grow into a bigger and better institution. Your charitable donation, even $1.00 will support of the Presidential Pet Museum and Foundation for 2007. We attach our new Brochure and hope you continue as a friend, supporter, funder and contributor. Thank you.

Claire McLean, Founder

Claire has a pretty good site and an actual brick-and-mortar location near DC. Check it out.

On a related note: Go Colts!

New Years’ Resolutions

I wanted to capture a few things for 2007 and get feedback from visitors and regular contributors.

  • Tour the White House. This may seem odd, but, altho I’ve been to Washington DC on a few occasions and made plans to tour the White House, I’ve never managed to do so. This year, I’ll plan a long weekend in April or so. Any suggestions on how to prepare are appreciated. (camera tripod?)
  • Tour or encyclopedia? I’m happy with the look of the WHM site now, but the navigation is starting to get a little unwieldy (the multiple detail articles off the main history pages, for example), and I’m afraid casual visitors will get a little lost. Should it be a more linear experience (taking visitors to, say, 10 of the best known rooms) or more webby and interconnected, like a web encyclopedia? Can it be both?
  • Room maps. I occasionally think it might be useful for each room page to display an enlarged map of its immediate area, showing connections to adjoining rooms, but I’m not sure where it should go.
  • Furniture and art? I’ve been adding a little more on the art and furniture of the White House, but I’m considering full pages on major pieces. The Monroe furniture, the round sofa that was once in the Blue Room and later in the China Room, the cabinet table W props his feet on in the Treaty Room, and of course the Lincoln Bed. Then there’s Stuart’s GW portrait, the seated Lincoln, and some of the famous non-portraits and sculptures. I don’t want to try to recreate Monkman’s book any more than I want to recreate Seale’s, but certain things may deserve special recognition.
  • Games and lesson plans. Given that I’d like to attract schoolteachers and kids, I wonder if it would be of interest to have some pages that are scavenger hunts, trivia, and what-not. I did create a lesson plan page, so I think I’ll discuss it directly with a local history teacher.
  • Web forum? One visitor suggested a forum, but I think we have about half a dozen regulars, and it seems the blog comment functionality might be enough. There’s always the danger of a message board attracting political commentary and assassination conspiracy theories. And I don’t think I could stand to read another Lincoln/Kennedy coincidence list.

New museum look

I’ve made changes to the WHM site to make it similar to the blog template. It has the a green-gray textured background instead of parchment textured background, and the main pages have a white center section with scalloped edges instead of being transparent to the parchment background. The room pages have only the background colored.

Marine Corps Museum

The US Marine Corps Museum was dedicated today. This is a good model for a real museum of White House history (PowerPoint), I think. I sent a note to the architects asking if they knew of any such effort and including links.

My Congressional representative, Chris Chocola, was defeated on Tuesday and replaced by Joe Donnelly. He doesn’t take office until January, so I’ll plan on sending him my proposal in the next couple of months.